Survival is always an extreme situation where making a mistake could harm you or worse. Substitutes for human food are among the hardest things to come by, but what about dog food? Our pets need protein, vitamins, and minerals, after all. We have similar needs, but does that mean we can share food? No one wants to think about having to survive on Fido’s feed, but it only matters if it works. Even the best survivors can make fatal mistakes if they don’t have the information they need. However, having options can help a great deal. Your canine companion can eat some of your food, so it stands to reason that things can go the other way too.
Can humans survive on dog food? Humans can survive on dog food for limited periods. Especially if it’s the high-quality dog food, it’s easier, but you eventually need vitamins and minerals you can’t get from puppy chow. After about a month, you would not have enough of what your body needs to stay healthy.
How Long is it Safe to Eat Dog Food
There’s nothing inherently unsafe about dog food in a human body, but it lacks much of what you need to survive. For example, there’s little to no vitamin C, which would eventually lead you to have scurvy. You could remain healthy for about thirty days eating just canned or bagged dog food.
Sadly, after about four weeks, diseases and deficiencies would begin to act on your system, making you sick. Nutritional deficiencies are no joke. Some will only make your system weak, but others can kill you if given enough time.
Dogs naturally produce vitamins C and B, so their food doesn’t provide these. Meanwhile, humans require both to remain healthy. Looking at just vitamins B12 and B9, you can easily see why you need human food. Below is a list of some of the side effects of lacking these two essential vitamins when you remain untreated.
B12 & B9 deficiency Side Effects
- Constipation- The inability to poo sounds funny, but when your body can’t eliminate waste, you can end up in grave danger.
- Death- This can come from many of the side effects. For example, untreated constipation can cause you to burst part of an intestine and leak feces into your body.
- Diarrhea- We all know what this is. However, diarrhea causes dehydration.
- Fatigue- You need energy to survive.
- Gas- Okay, this won’t kill you, or even hurt too much, but it could give away your hiding place in a disaster.
- Headache- When your head hurts, it’s harder to focus and concentrate.
- Heart Palpitations- An irregular heartbeat can lead to severe issues over time.
- Irritability- Being grumpy won’t kill you, but you need your mental health in a survival situation.
- Lightheadedness- Dizziness, nausea and other effects of lightheadedness can interfere with your ability to do other things, like walking or using a knife.
- Loss of Appetite- You need food to survive.
- Megaloblastic Anemia- This type of anemia causes weakness.
- Muscle Weakness- Trouble walking and using your hands and arms is serious.
- Nerve Issues- Tingling, pins, and needles, or numbness means you could have issues holding things or walking.
- Open Sores in Your Mouth- This will make you more prone to infections and make it harder to eat.
- Pale Skin- Lack of blood flow under your skin is never good. Skin is the biggest organ you have.
- Shortness of Breath- If you can’t breathe, you can’t run.
- Smooth Tongue- I’m not sure if this would seriously impact you, but it’s not a good sign.
- Trouble Concentrating- Focus is necessary for almost everything survival related.
- Vision Loss- I don’t think we need to belabor why going blind would not help you survive.
Regrettably, the list goes on. These are only some of the more severe and alarming side effects of missing out on just two of the vitamins you get from a healthy balanced diet. It’s vital to make sure you are getting everything your body needs daily.
A Possible Exception
Dog food made from people’s food will likely sustain you longer. Because dog foods created from pure human food ingredients retain more of their nutrients, you might expect to last a little longer on these foods. However, you would still need a supplement or other option to get the vitamins and minerals a human body needs.
Dry Dog Food Expiration Dates
Unlike many dry foods for humans, dry dog food will go bad relatively quickly. Because of the high fat and moisture content in kibble, and the permeability of both dog food bags and plastic bins, you need to pay attention to the expiration dates carefully. Furthermore, I don’t recommend storing pet food in plastic containers.
Plastic is porous. That means it will absorb some of the oils from your dog’s food. Those stored oils can then go rancid, leading to illness for both you and your dog. A couple of days past the use-by date is likely okay. However, after a week or more, you’re taking a significant risk. Mold and bacteria thrive in protein-rich environments like dog food.
Nutritional Differences in Dogs Food
There are numerous nutritional differences between humans and dogs that can lead to trouble if you overeat dog food. A great example of this is taurine. Your favorite Fido needs a lot more taurine than people should consume.
According to WebMD, “Taurine has important functions in the heart and brain, including supporting nerve growth. It might improve heart failure because it seems to lower blood pressure and calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is often too active in people with high blood pressure and CHF.” Plus taurine also aids in reducing excess glutamate.
Moreover, the amino acid taurine can help reduce anxiety. Since it increases glycine and GABA, this can help those nervous and anxious feelings. However, people with bipolar disorder could see a negative effect of excess taurine.
Unfortunately, while this means you do need some taurine, too much is a different story. The good news is that no deaths have been linked directly to taurine. Sadly, high taurine levels in your blood can have adverse effects on your kidneys. People with Chronic Kidney Disease should be especially careful.
Not Regulated the Same
Human food is rigorously regulated. While nutritional information has to be accurate and must fall within certain limitations for us to consume, dog food is much less regulated. Your pet’s food has to state a minimum or a maximum amount of something, such as fat. However, they do not display the actual amount.
Unfortunately, this isn’t good for your pet, and it’s even worse for you. It might be ‘safe’ to put it in your mouth and body, but it’s ‘safe’ to put grass or unbleached cardboard in your body as well. At least dog food has more protein and often contains grains as well.
Can Your Dog Survive on Human Food
Your dog can eat some human foods, just as you can have some dog food. It is not suitable for their health to eat sugars, and our food often lacks the taurine and protein they require. However, numerous human foods are toxic to canines or just bad for them.
Examples of these foods include chocolate, xylitol, macadamia nuts, and grapes, including raisins. We’ve all seen movies and TV shows like Harry Potter, where humans give dogs alcohol. Like many other human safe foods, this is incredibly bad for your pet.
Foods your dog can have are things like carrots, peas, and unspiced proteins. Chicken, beef, and fish are generally safe for your dog. Moreover, there are many recipes for DIY dog foods that are all made from human ingredients.
In a survival supply cache, it’s often a wise plan to add more of these dual-purpose foods if you plan to bring your dog along with you. By making meals you can both eat, and adding supplements for both of you, a human and their canine companion can stay healthy for a long time eating survival foods.
Adding a Supplement
If you’re concerned about eating dog food, consider stocking up on human vitamin supplements. While this won’t prevent you from getting too much taurine, it can help you to maintain a healthy balance otherwise. Choose a multivitamin that is easy for your body to absorb.
You won’t need extra protein if you eat dog food. In fact, it’s a good idea if you do more physical activity to help your body use up the excess. However, you especially need B and C vitamins, among others.
Foods You Can Survive On
Although each of these foods has some downsides, there are four foods, not dog food, that you could survive on for an extended period. These include potatoes, kale, trail mix, and breast milk.
Human breast milk is made to sustain humans. While it’s hard to imagine having a steady supply of this unusual food in a survival situation, it is possible to get virtually everything you need from it. Unfortunately, the quantities of fiber and protein are small in breast milk.
In short, you’d need to drink a lot of milk to make this solution work. Moreover, a lack of fiber and protein can lead to constipation and even kidney failure.
Potatoes are reasonably nutritionally complete. Assuming you include sweet potatoes as well, you would have almost everything your body needs. Plus, they even have protein. However, regular, non-sweet potatoes are deficient in zinc, riboflavin, and calcium. You could make it much longer than a month, but eventually, your bones would start to break down.
If you plan to survive on kale, you’d better cook it. Raw kale can inhibit iodine absorption. Also, this superfood, leafy green, is prone to absorbing heavy metals like thallium, which can be incredibly toxic to humans.
Finally, assuming you had enough of a well-blended trail mix, you might survive on it. With dried fruits, nuts, and often oats or granola, there’s some of everything you need. However, the problem with the trail mix is the same as breast milk. You would need a considerable quantity to stay healthy.
Instead of trying to live off these foods, I suggest adding more of them to your survival supplies. Except for breast milk, you can find the rest readily. Please do not store powdered formula for adults, it’s not the same, and it tastes awful.
When it comes to asking if you can eat dog food and survive, the answer is yes. You could live off dog food for about a month, more if you don’t mind getting vitamin deficient and risking worse health effects. However, this is a case of can versus should. You should not eat dog food.
Some dog foods are surprisingly tasty. Things like dried jerky and even those peanut butter dog biscuits aren’t half bad. Regrettably, they are also not enough for you to eat forever in a dire survival situation. If you ever wash up on a deserted island with a crate of kibbles, by all means, eat them, but make sure you also start a fire and layout an SOS message.
If you get stuck eating dog food, you should absolutely do everything in your power to minimize the amount of time you have to do this. From excess fats and taurine to questionable standards, it’s just not healthy for you.